Monday, November 25, 2019
With Thanksgiving just two days away, I thought we should remember to give thanks to caregivers and to reflect on implications of what that means. This perspectives piece from the Washington Post from a few weeks ago is worth reading In My family faces an impossible choice: caring for our mom, or building our future the author writes from personal experience about her mother's need for care. Consider this information the author offers:
Sixty percent of people caring for adult relatives or friends also have full- or part-time jobs, according to the AARP’s Public Policy Institute. More than half of caregivers report a decline in exercise , poor diet and not seeing their doctor as needed. Chronic stress in caregivers has been shown to increase the risk of high blood pressure and heart disease . Compared with their peers, elderly individuals who serve as overburdened caregivers are 1.6 times more likely to die within four years. Only 13 percent of caregivers are between the ages of 18 and 29, according to Gallup-Healthways, so fewer studies exist on the effects on younger people. From my own experience, I can say that I routinely missed meals and sleep during my adolescence, and that I strove to hide my exhaustion, weight loss and social isolation from the people around me.
The author also writes about the financial impact that caregiving may have on the caregivers:
Caregiving fuels generational poverty, disproportionately affecting millennials and women who take on that role in their families. ... Millennial caregivers are more likely than previous generations to be passed over for promotions, forced to reduce their job responsibilities or fired, according to the TransAmerica Institute. Just a few years of caregiving early in life creates cumulative financial setbacks for women, making them less likely to have retirement savings and more likely to require government assistance. A 50-year-old woman earning $40,000 a year who leaves the workforce to care for a family member for five years loses 11 percent of her potential lifetime earnings ($256,753), according to the Center for American Progress. If she does the same at 25, she loses 20 percent of her lifetime earnings ($679,000). When women become caregivers, they also become 2.5 times more likely to live in poverty.
The author reflects on existing caregiving support programs, and mentions a new law from Washington that provides "a publicly funded long-term-care benefit... [of] $100 a day, with a lifetime cap of $36,500, to pay for services including caregiving, meal delivery and nursing home fees." The state expects to save an enormous amount of Medicaid money as a result of this new benefit.
Know any family caregivers? Right now, thank them for doing this and ask them what help they need.